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Sent on Mormon-News: 06Jan01

By Kent Larsen

Census Official That Cost Utah House Seat Is LDS

WASHINGTON, DC -- The US Bureau of the Census official who made the decision to include overseas military personnel but exclude LDS missionaries, a decision that cost the state of Utah a fourth representative in the U.S. House of Representatives, is LDS, a returned LDS missionary and a native of Utah. Reporter Howard Berkes of National Public Radio interviewed Jay Waite, assistant director for the dicennial census in the bureau of the census, learning that Waite is also a 'regional leader' in the LDS Church.

Last week the Census Bureau released the results of the 2000 census, and what those results will mean for each state. Under the count, North Carolina will get a 13th seat in the US House of Representatives, while Utah will not get a fourth. Census officials say that the difference between the two states was just 856 people, meaning that if the count in Utah had shown 856 additional people, or if the count in North Carolina had show 856 fewer people, the seat would have gone to Utah instead.

In announcing the results, Bureau Director Kenneth Prewitt said, "By adding in the overseas military and diplomatic corp, a seat did shift, and that seat shifted from Utah to North Carolina." Berkes' report implies that the decision for whether or not to include military personnel was made by the Bureau's Associated Director for the Dicennial Census, John H. Thompson, and the Assistant Director, Waite.

Now, the circumstances have Utah Governor, and LDS Church member, Mike Leavitt calling foul and threatening to sue. Leavit says, "we ought to count every citizen in the same way." And to Leavitt, this means that if the military get counted, LDS missionaries should get counted also. Both groups are taxpayers, registered voters, overseas for a short period of time, and there on assignment -- they clearly would have been in the state without the assignment. While reports vary, Berkes mentions that 14,000 LDS missionaries are currently serving overseas. It is not clear that all of these missionaries are from Utah.

"This is about clearly identifiable classes of people who have been treated differently than others, under the discretion of bureaucrats in Washington," says Leavitt. But Waite tries to show that counting everyone temporarily overseas is impractical, and might not get Utah another seat. "There are a lot of people living overseas. Some of them are Mormon missionaries and some of them are employees working for private companies. It's not clear that we would be able to get a consistent count of that group of people. And even if we did, its not clear that that would result necessarily in the state of Utah getting another seat."

Unfortunately, the history of counting US citizens overseas only confuses the issue. Overseas citizens weren't counted until the 1970 census, when the large number of military personnel in Vietnam led to calls for military and diplomatic personnel on assignment from the US Government to be counted. But in the 1980 census, they were not counted.

In the last (1990) census, military and diplomatic personnel were again counted, costing Massachusetts a seat. That state's lawsuit on the issue lost. Berkes points out that while Massachusetts' loss doesn't help Utah's case, the bureau's inconsistency in counting overseas citizens may aid the case.

Leavitt says he will decide whether or not Utah will file a lawsuit on this issue in the next few days. The Bureau of the Census, meanwhile, says it will review its policies for the next, 2010, dicennial census.


Utah - Census
NPR All Things Considered 5Jan01 T1
By Howard Berkes

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